My esoteric speakers

My audio systems

In the process of writing future blogs, I will refer to my own audio systems. You will notice immediately the plural nature of the systems reflecting the extent of my compulsive behaviour. In fact, although mostly I shall refer only to my two main stereo systems I should confess to a further audiovisual system which may yet creep into later blogs and two further satellite systems to provide background music in other parts of the house.

The first challenge is how to describe the two systems. Phrases like “high end” are relative terms and I regularly read about components in my monthly magazines which cost more than my car, let alone my entire collected hi-fi systems.

I shall therefore refer to my first system as my respectable system.The system is approximately eight years old at time of writing, and the quoted retail prices of the components was around £2000 at time of purchase.

I am aware that for a stereotypical person in the street this may seem an excessive amount for a simple stereo sound system. However, they are unlikely to be reading this blog.

On the other hand, for a serious hobbyist, it may label the system as barely worthy of consideration. It consists of a Naim Unitiqute 192/24 all-in-one amplifier and streamer, together with Rega RS3 compact floorstanding speakers. 

For a pinch of esoterica, they are connected with Naim speaker cable, and for the seriously nerdy, they take audio files via my wireless network from a Diskstation NAS. Historically, I used Tidal as my lossless streaming service and this was accessed directly from the Internet by the Unitiqute. Recently, I switched my streaming allegiance to Quboz, and this means that I now use the MconnectHD app on my iPad to connect the system to the streaming service.

Until the start of the pandemic, this was my main listening system. However, the pandemic gave me the excuse to indulge my craving for something a little more esoteric and gave birth to my newest system which I shall refer to as my esoteric system.

The heart of my esoteric system is an Auralic Polaris amplifier streamer, which on the face of it offers similar functionality to the Naim Unitiqute. However, the Auralic was developed by a company who started by specialising in digital audio components. The company is a Chinese owned company and as a relative newcomer, stands in sharp contrast to Naim Audio, a pillar of the British hi-fi establishment.

The Polaris model is the only model that they have produced which includes power amplification alongside the digital functionality and preamplifier functions.

It includes a phono input which I use for playing good old fashioned, (or is that retro?) vinyl records. However,  the turntable I use is an Audio Technica Direct Drive LPT-5, a workhorse which lacks esoteric credibility. The Auralic Polaris accesses Quboz directly and also draws in music files from my Diskstation NAS.

However, the speakers more than make up for my workhorse of a turntable. At time of writing, they are a recent addition. They are handmade in the living room of the owner of Mycetias Audio who happens to live just a 10 minute walk from my house. Their bespoke nature definitely enhances the joy of ownership.

I was able to choose the finish of the speakers which were specified as black fronts with a “ light driftwood finish” which changes colour according to the ambient light conditions. To be clear, this is not the result of some rip-off of a proprietary system to put lights around the television, but rather the result of using natural materials. Furthermore, I was able to specify speaker stands with solid oak pillars stained to match which deliver the tweeters at the exact height of my ears when sitting on my favourite listening sofa. All of which would account for little if the listening experience was not very enjoyable, but I shall return to the listening experience in later blogs.

Without the turntable, the SRP of this system is around £3600 but the rapid pace of digital product development enabled me to pick up the Polaris as a showroom demonstration model for less than half the recommended price, and the cost of the speakers was met by selling off of much of the no longer used equipment I had acquired and confined to storage on my Hifi journey.

For now, this system has satisfied my craving for continual upgrades and I am able to currently enjoy listening to music and take pleasure in the sound produced.

However, previous experience tells me that my compulsion to upgrade may yet return.

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